Chicago, Monday, January 30, 2012. In a sea of serious 4-star productions being explored on Chicago Stage this January including: The Invisible Man (Court Theatre), Race (Goodman Theatre), Time Stands Still (Steppenwolf Theatre) along comes a huge ray of sunshine to lift your spirits with the Marriott Theatre's production of the seven-time Tony Award nominated musical LEGALLY BLONDE that opened Friday.
A happy-go-lucky Valley Girl, Elle Woods (Chelsea Packard) puts to rest all the dumb blonde jokes when she packs her bags for Harvard Law School leaving the Malibu scene in the sand and striking a blow against the stereotyping of unfortunate, misunderstood blondes everywhere.
Though some (including me) thought that Marriott was taking a chance on this "light-weight" story, it seems that once again they know what they are doing and they know their audience. The somewhat-maligned Broadway musical based on the 2001 Reese Witherspoon movie about Elle Woods, the pretty in pink blonde whose superficial boyfriend dumps her to find someone more serious is high-energy and true to its roots. Under the direction and choreography of Jeff award-winning Marc Robin, the clueless, shallow movie turned musical shines bright.
What is it that makes this show work? First off, the casting. Co-star, Chelsea Packard (Broadway: "Wicked" and "Promises, Promises"; First National Tour of "Wicked") as “Elle” possesses that intangible star-quality--she has that smile, that style, plus she never wavers even though she is on stage non-stop in the high energy 2- hour and 10-minute production. Cole Burden as Elle's ex, Warner Huntington III, (25th Anniversary National Tour of "Les Miserables") is another fine talent. The instantly likeable David Larsen (Broadway: "American Idiot", "Billy Elliot" and "Good Vibrations") as Emmett has it all---he can sing, dance and act. Another highlight and audience favorite was Christine Sherrill as Elle's working class, hard knocks hairdresser, Paulette, who nearly brought the house down every time she came on stage. The object of Paulette's affections, the hefty UPS guy in his brown shorts, was played marvelously by Steve Calzaretta. Gene Weygandt of Park Ridge as the authoritative (and sleazy) Professor Callahan was the perfect bad boy. Summer Naomi Smart of Oak Park, brings great chemistry to the cast in the role of Brooke, the fitness entrepreneur, being tried for murder and Elle's first client and sorority sister from "Delta Nu".
Although the score might not be an award-winner, it holds up well moving along the story at just the right pace. Some of the more memorable tunes include: "Blood in the Water", "Whipped into Shape"--a lively jump rope dance number; and the title tune "Legally Blonde." Add to that-- great dancing, staging, lots of energy, perfect timing, live orchestra and two scene-stealing dogs, Chico (Bruiser) and Nellie (Rufus) and you have a crowd-pleasing show.
Ticket prices range from $40 to $48,( plus tax and handling fees). Seniors and students receive $5.00 off a full price theatre ticket on Wednesday at 1:00 p.m., Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings a limited number of Dinner and Theatre tickets are available for $55 per person (plus handling fees). Dinner is at Kings Wharf Restaurant or the Fairfield Inn (based on dining availability). To reserve tickets with a major credit card, call the Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847 634.0200 or TicketMaster or online.
The performance schedule is Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. The show runs now through April 1, 2012.
The Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, IL.